The ThinkPad T490 gets thinner, but it loses one of its best features. The 2019 ThinkPad refresh introduces the T490, a versatile, durable 14-inch ultrabook with some significant changes compared to last year’s T480, which we also reviewed. I used it for over a week to get a feel for what it has to offer, and like previous years, it’s a complete workhorse and a great value for money. Here’s what it does right, what it doesn’t do well, and ultimately whether it’s the right laptop for you.
Lenovo ThinkPad T490 design and features
Compared to last year’s T480, the T490 is lighter – the WQHD version is the heaviest, starting at just 3.17 pounds (1.44kg) – with an overall smaller footprint and 0.70 inches (17.9mm) thinner. It doesn’t look exciting, but it’s definitely a ThinkPad. Black soft-touch paint covers the entire chassis, which like most ThinkPads will pick up a lot of smudges and fingerprints, and the dual-hinge system offers about 180 degrees of movement, with plenty of ports crammed into the slim chassis.
The ThinkPad T490 proved its toughness by passing the usual MIL-STD 810G durability testing, making it an all-around solid laptop. The lid barely wobbles when shaken, the main chassis flexes very little, and despite being lightweight, it feels like it can take a knock. The T490 includes a few security options as well as a dTPM 2.0 chip, including a fingerprint reader set into the right palm rest, an optional IR camera above the display, a shutter for the front-facing 720p webcam, and a Kensington lock slot. Like the X390 we recently reviewed, a PrivacyGuard display option is expected to be available sometime this summer, which will reduce viewing angles and prevent passers-by from seeing what you’re doing.Lenovo ThinkPad T490 displayOur review model had a high-end WQHD non-touch display that was gorgeous.
It looks to be the same 14-inch display used in the X1 Carbon series, with Dolby Vision HDR and up to 500 nits of brightness. It’s an upgrade at about $191 compared to the FHD non-touch option, but totally worth it, especially if you’re interested in multimedia editing or some design work.In our tests, color reproduction hit 100% sRGB and AdobeRGB, which are both excellent results. It’s also very bright at around 500 nits, which almost makes up for the glossy finish that’s still a bit troublesome in sunlit rooms. The bezels are slightly narrower compared to the T480, further enhancing the impressive overall appearance when the lid is open.Lenovo ThinkPad T490 keyboard and touchpadThe keyboard hasn’t changed much from the T480. It uses the same cupped keys, which have perfect travel and are soft and non-bouncey when bottomed out.
ThinkPads usually have great keyboards, and the T490 is no exception.Included here is the iconic ThinkPad TrackPoint system, with a red pointer in the middle of the keyboard and physical buttons located between the keyboard and standard touchpad. There’s no problem here either, because you won’t have any problems with your pointing. The surface is smooth, the tracking is perfect, and it uses Microsoft’s precision drivers for the best experience.Lenovo ThinkPad T490 performance andLenovo ThinkPad T490 batteryThe biggest change compared to the T480 is the elimination of the bridge battery system and a modular design for hot-swappable batteries on site. You can charge a few extra Lenovo ThinkPad T490 batteries before you go, and when one of the batteries gets low, you can pop it out and add another fully charged battery without powering down the system.
Now, the Lenovo ThinkPad T490’s battery has been removed and replaced by a single 50Wh battery, which can last up to 6 to 7 hours of battery life during normal operation You might see slightly better Laptop batterylife on the Lenovo ThinkPad T490 with a lower-resolution display, but by adding the NVIDIA MX250 dedicated GPU, battery life will undoubtedly be affected further.I used the T490 regularly for about a week, and while I wasn’t doing any intensive tasks, it stayed cool and quiet. You can occasionally hear a single fan running, but it’s not noticeable. This model comes with 8GB of RAM soldered on the board, as well as another slot that you can upgrade yourself to improve performance. I ran some synthetic benchmarks to see how it compared to similar ultrabooks.
Should you buy the Lenovo ThinkPad T490?The ThinkPad T490 is better than ever as a more affordable alternative to the X1 Carbon, thanks to a slimmer, lighter chassis, a 14-inch WQHD display with HDR options, and powerful performance hardware.
There’s the option to add an NVIDIA MX250 GPU for more graphics power, but the modular battery and HDD options are gone.If you like the latter two features, Lenovo still offers the ThinkPad T480, although it doesn’t offer the same performance. Overall, the T490 is an impressive Ultrabook with plenty of available configuration options, upgradeable SSD and RAM, and optional LTE connectivity.
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